Harry Whittaker
Visions in Daniel

2. Nebuchadnezzar’s madness (Daniel 4)

The situation of Daniel 2 was repeating itself: The king eager to know the meaning of his dream, the magicians just as false, then Daniel unfolds a revelation of divine control over Babylon.

It is something of a surprise that, after the former exposure of soothsaying inadequacy, Nebuchadnezzar had not rid himself of these mountebanks. Perhaps the consolidated influence of the priesthood (the “Chaldeans”) had been too much for him. The professed inability of these learned men to interpret the dream about the felling of a luxurious tree was probably put on. It would be easy to see that only a dire meaning could attach to the dream, and they were unwilling to risk further unpopularity with the king by imparting a discouraging message.

So they left it to Daniel. Was he really “the master of the magicians”? Or is that phrase intended to mean that he was the pick of the lot? And why should he appear after all the rest? The record does not explain.

There was reluctance in Daniel also. Put, urged by the king, he told plainly what the dream portended. He added his own exhortation to repentance, and apparently this was heeded, for a while; for the fulfilment was deferred for a year. Perhaps the memory of the warning faded from the king’s mind, and his native pride of achievement took over once again.

It is said that Amytis, his queen, came from the mountains of Elam, and in the dead flat plain of Mesopotamia she sighed for her native land.

“You want mountains, my dear?” said Nebuchadnezzar, “you shall have them”—and he proceeded to fashion one of the wonders of the ancient world, the hanging gardens of Babylon.

It was in the midst of this wonderful creation that he boasted: “Is not this great Babylon that I have built for the honour of my majesty and the glory of my power? “

Then judgment fell. The king was overcome with a highly unusual disease— lycanthropy—that drove him to the instincts and habits of an animal. The archaeologists have commented on a remarkable gap of about seven years in the documents and history of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign (see Rendle Short: “Modern Discovery...” p.l46).

Then came recovery, and with it a thankful acknowledgement of the control of the Most High. The king’s confession of faith (v.1-3,37) stamps him as a man of high religious spirit; and various Nebuchadnezzar inscriptions express similar devoutness.

For the student of the Last Days, special interest attaches to that period of “seven times”. A popular interpretation has been on these lines:

7 times
= 7 years
= 7 x 360 days
= 7 x 360 years (!!)
= 2520 years.

This period, measured from a suitable year in Nebuchadnezzar’s reign, terminates at 1914 A.D.

Thus—so it is argued—there is here a prophecy of the madness of the nations.

In this remarkable sequence of “reasoning” every detail is debatable except one: the “seven times” does mean “seven literal years”. All the rest is cloud-cuckoo land, especially the idea that the madness of the nations would last until 1914, for never has the Gentile world been so mad as since 1914.

Do readers need further warnings against the foolishness of such interpretations as these?

Daniel ch. 4 Additional Notes

Nebuchadnezzar was very keen on felling cedars in Lebanon—he did it personally:

    "Under her shadow (Babylon) I gathered all even in peace.”
    “Mighty cedars with my own hands I cut down.”
    “Merodach ... may my woodcutting prosper.”

        Bas-relief in Wadi Brissa: “image of my royal person” felling cedars.

Based on Ez. 31 :3ff, 13.
Fate same as Assyria, and for same reason.
“For four years all public works ceased”.
basest = lowest. Nabopolassar “son of a nobody—me—the magnificent .”
Isaiah 10:5 provides an earlier illustration.
Predestination and contingency, here side by side.
E.g. Nebuchadnezzar’s Euphrates bridge 134yds x 69ft wide.

7 yrs. It is a tribute to his character that his rule was not usurped.

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